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December 1, 2009
How about if we turn our house into sort of a living Advent calendar this year? Add just one little thing every day, rather than taking an entire afternoon to decorate the whole place at once? How about if we let Christmas creep into the periphery of our vision, rather than come bursting upon the scene, so that one day we turn around and realize that it has come, more or less on its own? After all, Advent is a wait for a baby, and that's the way they come: you don't go overnight from having a flat stomach to having one whose navel has disappeared and beyond which you can no longer see your own two feet. All that happens a little at a time. And you also don't wait until the baby's born to think about things like little undershirts and nighties and diapers. You lay in a supply beforehand. So much for the Advent Police, who are out in force at this time of year, making sure nobody sings a Christmas carol before the great day arrives. Yes, the church year is important, but please. Everything in moderation.

I've already begun, actually, by plopping a bunch of hemlock prunings into the wooden plant stand on the porch. Next up: some fuzzy cattail like heads of ornamental grass, mixed with more hemlock prunings, one swag for each of the double doors. Nice? Very. And absolutely free.

Let a wreath appear in each window, one a day all next week. And let the ropes of pine ropes twine around the porch pillars by themselves for a few days before the lights go up, so we can long for the show a bit before it all comes together.

And the tree: a little volunteer yew, out of place among the portulaca and in danger of shading both the lilac tree and the andromeda if it is allowed to remain where it is. It's a little on the skimpy side, and seriously lacks symmetry. But Q and I both grow daily less and less symmetrical ourselves, so what's to prevent our bringing it in and commissioning it as a free Christmas tree? It's too short to stand on the floor, but we can put it on the table in the bay window. And it will be, once again, absolutely free.

And Q? He is happy with whatever comes along. I'm not sure I've ever known anyone as indifferent to newness as he: from the ruined elbows of his favorite sweaters to the backs of the countless ruined envelopes upon which he scribbles inscrutable notes to himself, he is a lad of the Great Depression if ever there was one.

You will have noticed a subtext to all this, which can be summarized in the words "absolutely free." I want to save energy and money this year, more than ever. I want things to be useful and re-useful, and then to be re-useful again until they've gone home to Jesus. I want it all to feel the way it felt when I was a girl, when there wasn't all that much to buy or to want. It has been a long time since I needed anything I didn't have, and that makes me a worldwide rarity. I want our Christmas to reflect our intense gratitude for that fact, ours by accident of birth alone. Because it is always those who know very well just how blessed they are who are the greatest blessing to others.
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